This is a beach that spans multiple autobiographies, and ghosts scenes from my past that are etched in my usually noncapacious memory. Here first are the snapshots in words.
It’s late afternoon. I’m coordinating a writer’s workshop for students in the Eurobodalla. The guest writer and my co-coordinators are staying in the caravan park between the beach and the entrance of the Tuross River. We are sitting around, eating and talking about the day and how we might need to change tomorrow. I’ve resisted this workshop: every time I began thinking about organising it a steel shutter came down in my mind. I could see it, and hear its clang: I couldn’t fathom why there was such resistance. Shortly after this I decide to retire.
It’s midday after heavy rain. We’re walking along the sand stretching from the Blackie’s caravan park to the outlet of the river when we see a crowd gathered. Of course we head along to sticky beak and discover a huge machine beginning to move the sand that has settled across the river mouth, raising the level of the lake and warming it to a smelly, and as far as fish are concerned death-dealing, 23°. Dolphins trapped inside are languishing. There’s quite a gathering from both sides, people we’ve known forever have walked across from the Tuross side, and old acquaintances gather on the Potato Point side. We chat, as the machine sets about its work. The people from the north are watching particularly carefully, because they need to cross back or face a very long walk home. But everyone paying close attention because we’re all there to see the dramatic moment of breach.
It’s the middle of a grey splattery-rainy day. This is the end of a morning of flood tourism. The other two members of the tour group are no longer interested and we’ve left them behind to walk home. We’ve already watched the river whirl over the bridge near J’s place and race under the bridge across the highway north of Bodalla. It’s been raining heavily for days and the Tuross is churning furiously as it empties floodwaters into the ocean. My Queensland son and I stand on the edge, watching the swirling fury, the waves coming back on themselves as river meets surf.
It’s a placid sunny day with a stiffish breeze as the eye of memory looks across the river opening to the lake and spots a sailing boat, a clumsy looking object, with a tarpaulin sail. It’s tacking and twisting, he manoeuvring, she sitting and looking apprehensive. J’s been a boatman since he was 7, I haven’t mastered nautical nonchalance, even if the lake is neither deep nor wide. But we’re skittering along and the speed becomes exhilarating,
Another day, mid afternoon. A group gathers, clustering in changing patterns. If you watch closely you’ll see that there’s an odd hybrid of familiarity and hesitation as people talk and move on. There’s a hint of the hippy in long hair and long skirts, and a sombreness that’s rare on a beach. Slowly you figure out that they’ve gathered to farewell someone. The groups fall silent and remain near a rocky outcrop while the family gathers out of sight and swirls the ashes of our friend into the water.
Places have their own histories, but they also acquire the history of people who visit. These are my ghosts, my remnants, my shadows, traces of my past. These are the shards of memory I take to One Tree Beach at daybreak.
As you might expect, if you visit this blog often, I spend an inordinate amount of time doting on rockface. This morning is no exception, although the stranded tree and the possibilities of silhouette also draw me, as does the encroaching golden light.
Once I’ve had my fill of the shady end, I head off into the morning light towards the mouth of the river, and sit on a log watching a woman far more daring than I clamber along the headland which will give her a view uninvaded by caravan parks.
Then I do my own tamer version of scramble and cross the piles of driftwood to explore a rocky outcrop.
The patterning of rock here is astonishingly diverse so I employ a modification of “every 20 steps a photograph” called “every step a photograph.” I can’t even limit myself to one every step. Fortunately the outcrop is not very large.
I stand in front of the lifebuoy (ring buoy, lifering, lifesaver, life donut, life preserver, lifebelt, kisby ring, perry buoy) and take in the view: out over a benign-looking sea to a low bank of cloud, and south towards the Potato Point headland.
As I walk back along the beach I feel a presence behind me, keeping pace. I’m briefly fanciful and imagine it’s ghosts from the past, but in fact it’s my inordinately long shadow.
One Tree Beach is at the mouth of the Tuross River in the township of Tuross Heads, north of Potato Point. Take the turnoff from the highway south of Moruya, and turn left when you reach a T intersection. The road takes you along the waterfront until you reach a car park marked by a single small pine: someone killed the grand pine and this one replaced it. There is a picnic area and a lookout and ramp access to the beach.